JAL- ANA fight over Haneda slots draws in U.S. carriers

Bloomberg

Japan Airlines Co. and ANA Holdings Inc.’s fight over additional slots at Tokyo’s Haneda airport is widening to include global airline partnerships seeking access to fly businesspeople right into the heart of the capital.

Haneda, Asia’s second-busiest airport, is set to gain about 40 new daytime landing slots starting in March, transport minister Akihiro Ota said Sept. 20.

United Continental Holdings Inc., which has teamed up with ANA, is seeking its first slot on its own, while Delta Air Lines Inc., the only major U.S. carrier without a Japanese partner, wants 25 slot pairs. American Airlines Inc. has a partnership with JAL.

ANA, Japan’s largest airline, is vying for a lion’s share of the roughly 20 new international slots to be distributed among local carriers, saying government support of JAL’s restructuring tipped the balance in favor of its rival. Rights to Haneda are important, as business travelers will pay a premium to land near the city center instead of flying into Narita airport.

“Access to those slots is considered very important by the U.S. carriers,” said Peter Harbison, executive chairman at the Sydney-based CAPA Center for Aviation. “It creates the obvious competitive advantages — being close to the city and having desirable arrival and departure times.”

Haneda resumed regular intercontinental flights three years ago after opening a new international terminal.

Atlanta-based Delta has said it wants 25 slot pairs so it can return most of its flights to the airport after being forced to move them to Narita in 1978. It’s competing against United and American, which have flight-sharing ventures with Japanese airlines and benefit from the domestic carriers’ slots.

Delta won two nighttime slots to Haneda in 2010, while American Airlines got one. Hawaiian Holdings Inc. also received one slot, while United got none. A slot is the right to land and take off a plane.

The ability of U.S. carriers to win slots at Haneda is hampered by government favoritism toward domestic carriers, Delta CEO Richard Anderson said in July.

“The U.S. should reject these unsatisfactory and piecemeal offers — and permit no changes until Japan is ready to fully open Haneda and allow Delta to move its hub,” Delta spokesman Anthony Black said.

The allocation of daytime slots may also prove more competitive than the nighttime slots three years ago, since the timings are more attractive to U.S. carriers.

“American has consistently raised concerns about the operational restrictions under which we fly between John F. Kennedy and Haneda, and that remains our focus,” said spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan said.

The time for its one flight between Haneda and New York, which leaves Tokyo at 6:55 a.m., isn’t attractive to business travelers, she said. ANA says it needs more slots from Haneda after the government’s support during JAL’s restructuring.

“We can’t catch up with JAL’s finances and profitability by ourselves after the support it had under restructuring,” ANA President Shinichiro Ito said in an interview last month. “One of the few ways the government could help correct that imbalance would be to give priority over the new slots to us.”